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September 19, 2018

African artist spices up Air Max

Some of visual artist Laolu Senbanjo's work.Photo/Courtesy
Some of visual artist Laolu Senbanjo's work.Photo/Courtesy

From his first exhibition in December 2009 at the Elephant House, Ikeja, Lagos, where he did not sell a single work of art, until now, Laolu Sebanjo has gone a long way.

For the visual artist and musician from Nigeria, all Senbanjo, wanted as a kid was happiness and growing up to become someone relevant to the society. While he thought he would grow up to draw comics for Marvel and DC, he ended up at Nike. The American sportswear company has selected him as a Master of Air, which will see him create art-inspired Air Max at the Air Max Con 2016.

Reacting to the news of his selection by Nike, Laolu said: “I’m making my dreams a reality. This is my ayanmo (a Yoruba word for ‘destiny’).

Create your destiny. Let me be your inspiration. Just do it!”

Laolu has one thing working for him: Afromysterics, his style of art developed over the years. Most of the things he draws have a lot to do with

African themes and traditions, hence the name ‘Afromysterics’, which he coined around 2006–2007. It simply means “the mystery of the African

thought pattern”.

The same style informed Nike’s decision to make him a Master of Air, to weave stories through lines and patterns at Air Max Con NYC, drawing

inspiration from his Yoruba heritage and global travels. Laolu will be creating art, incorporating his love for Air Max (Air Max 90 is his favourite),

New York City, and sports.

Although he has a degree in Law from Nigeria’s University of Ilorin, art has always been his first love.

Today, he uses his knowledge in law to ensure his copyrights and intellectual property are protected. Art still remains his top priority.

Laolu once said he was the type of child to see faces in random patterns on the terrazzo tiles in the courtyard and bathroom.

“The patterns in Kampala and Ankara used to really fascinate me,” he told a Nigerian blog in 2012.

He started his art with charcoal, one of the oldest art materials.

“Prehistoric man used charcoal to create cave art. We can still see some of it today,” Laolu says.

From March 24 to March 26, Laolu’s work will highlight his African roots as the world celebrates Nike’s popular Air Max brand. His special appearance will be on March 25.

The convention, Air Max Day, was introduced by Nike in 2014, to celebrate the history of Air Max, which stretches back to March 24,1987.

Called “the ultimate Air Max experience”, the convention will pay tribute to an icon, along with the sneaker design, heritage and innovation that has shaped the culture of the streets today.

Nike says attendees will be able to “step into the shoes of a designer, meet the Masters of Air, and share an experience with the sneaker community”.

It would be great to see what Laolu does with the Air Max.

But beyond the event, Laolu hopes his art will keep making Africa proud as he uses his work to make people recognise the potential of art to transmit ideas, messages and concepts.

The talented Nigerian artist, who also sings and plays the guitar, says he is always ready to work with “anyone interested in harnessing the ability of art to communicate ideas and abstract concepts.

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